TOKYO, January 23, 2013 ( – The recently-elected government of Japan has made itself heard on the life issues. Finance minister Taro Aso, said on Monday that elderly and financially dependent Japanese have a duty to die quickly to take pressure off the government-funded social service system.

“Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die,” Aso said. He described elderly people in need of care as “tube people” and complained that it costs “several tens of millions of yen” a month to care for a patient in the final stages of life.

Aso, who is 72, said he would refuse extensive government-funded care: “I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,” he told a meeting of the national council on social security reforms.


“The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die,” he said.

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The comments highlight a growing hostility towards the elderly and vulnerable in Japan where an aging population has put unprecedented pressure on government-funded services. One quarter of the 128 million population is aged over 60 in Japan, which has had a birth rate well below replacement for some years.

The government is doing little to address a pending crisis in Japanese culture that has embraced western doctrines of population control. The median age for men in Japan is 44.1 years and for women is 46.9 years, well past the age of childbearing. The statistics for 2012 show an overall fertility rate of 1.39 children born per woman, a level described by some statisticians as the lowest-low, the “death spiral,” from which it is nearly impossible for a society to recover.

Taso has since partially apologized for his remarks, saying they may have been “inappropriate.” He said he “wasn’t commenting on how terminal medical care should be,” but rather was expressing his “personal opinion.”